A Simple Guide: Causes Of Relapse

relapse Feb 23, 2023

There are many potential triggers for relapse, including stress, relationship concerns, reverting to unhealthy ways of living and exposure to substances or situations associated with previous use. Understanding your triggers means that you are able to acknowledge them, address each one and then increase your capacity to minimise the likelihood of relapse. While it’s difficult to completely eliminate the potential for relapse, it is possible to manage them effectively.

Understanding what can initiate a relapse means that we first need to be aware of what a relapse is. A relapse indicates a complete shift in thinking or acting regarding recovery and moving back towards a state of denial or pre-contemplation. It may include denying the problematic severity of the substance use or behaviour, believing that they don’t need to change or perceiving the behaviour to be acceptable and does not require amendment.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to a relapse, including life stressors, social pressure, and big emotions. It is imperative that those in recovery maintain robust support networks that ensure accountability to minimise the potential for complacent. One of the biggest causes or initiators of relapse is being complacent.


By becoming complacent, you may start to:

  • Minimise the severity of your concern because you're noticing improvements.
  • Become less mindful or conscious of your early warning signs.
  • Loose motivation to engage in the helpful activities and skills that perpetuate your recovery.  
  • Reconnect with unhelpful people, places, activities and other context involving your triggers.


Other things to look out for:

  • Disconnecting and mentally checking-out from support groups, therapy and other resources that specifically assist in the maintenance of recovery.
  • Becoming dishonest with your team about your triggers, cravings, urges or feelings.
  • Socially withdrawing from your supportive friends and family.
  • The desire to be completely self-sufficient in your recovery.
  • Falling back into unhealthy behaviour patterns (eating poorly, insufficient sleep, overworking, swapping the behaviour towards something else that is deemed more socially acceptable such as overworking.

It is important to be mindful of these potential early warning signs in your recovery to ensure that you are maintaining the helpful behaviours.

Once your strengths in recovery start to slip, connect with your team, journal to uncover what is going on and revisit your triggers list to see what has come up.